At five, Hollie is a huge Barbie fan. She has dozens of the dolls thanks to inheriting the collections of both her older sisters, and plenty of accessories large and small with which to keep them entertained (and entertaining). The Puppy Play Park was a Christmas present from her Nan, we'd spotted it in Toys R Us and it looked ideal with a Hollie-pleasing pink colour scheme and having the requisite cute puppy theme.
It was one of her favourite presents as she unwrapped her stuff this year, I must admit it was beautifully presented (as all Barbie sets tend to be) and looked like such an impressive gift. Unfortunately, on Boxing Day, after removing a trillion wire ties from the toy I quickly realised that it wasn't going to be particularly well received once Hollie started playing with it.
I was right too. It's rubbish. Everything about it is rubbish. Yeah, the dog gliding back to Barbie after she clapped her hands was amusing - for the first three minutes, then it just became a case of 'oh look, the dog is moving' and the irritation of said dog starting to move whenever a sound even slightly resembling a hand clap was made in the room. The 'innovative sound recognition' sounds impressive, and looks even more so on the box where it's bragged about in huge red letters - but really it's just all a bit naff. The dog is on wheels so it's kind of spooky to watch it move across the floor, and the range is absolutely useless unless your child likes to play in a shoe box as if he's more than a foot or so away from Barbie he won't be able to turn properly and needs coaxing into place before he even thinks about walking. Nice idea, sadly poorly executed. And still quite boring really even when it does work properly. The clapping motion, incidentally, is done using a small button on Barbie's back - this works well and isn't fiddly in the slightest despite the smallness of the button, it's been well placed so that you don't need to tilt the doll in order to activate it and it won't delay any games you may be playing.
When you first unpackage the set you'll need to put it together. This is an easy enough process even though some of the clippy sections seemed a little out of whack in places, the most awkward thing to construct being the fence as it's so bendy and flexible that both Mark and I had real problems making both ends hold to the ends of the slide. It was one of those irritating 'get one end in and the other end pops out' scenarios which I was sure was going to end in tears, or at least the destruction of this brand new toy. Eventually we got the set together and it looks pretty damned good. Smaller than expected but very girly, cute and attractive - Barbie is way out of proportion for the Play Park and I always think she looks like a comic book giant, there to create havoc and maybe stomp down on a not-as-cute-as-Mattel-think puppy.
Still, looks aren't everything and while the Park may look fantastic, in actual fact it's shoddily made and as wobbly as the doors on Prisoner Cell Block H. The fence has a habit of pinging out of place if Hollie moves the set so much as a millimetre, the slide doesn't sit straight enough to allow the smaller puppy to go down it as smoothly as it should and even when she does manage to get the dog to roll down the slide it'll invariably fall over when it reaches the bottom due to the rubbish design and the fact that there's a gap between the bottom of the slide and the floor.
We've been incredibly disappointed with this Puppy Play Park, there's a small amount of novelty value which lasts for a day or two and once that wears off you'll probably find your child won't want to play with it again. This is certainly true of Hollie, who after sussing out the sound recognition thing just completely lost interest and has left the Park on her bedroom floor to become neglected and broken - she just couldn't care less about it, and for me that's testament to the poor quality and bad design as she's usually brilliantly careful with her toys. Even the Barbie has been disappointing as she doesn't fit in well with Hollie's games due to the fact of her hands and arms being in such an awkward position - she has jointed legs so can be placed in a variety of positions, but won't stand alone as is the case with the majority of Barbie dolls.
The dog works using three AAA batteries, which frankly is overkill in my opinion considering the general dullness of his abilities. The batteries will last forever simply because the toy probably won't be used very often, I actually need a couple of these small batteries right now and in a minute intend to go and take them out of the dog to use in my much more important nail dryer. I doubt Hollie will notice.
The recommended age for this Park is three to eight years, which is crazy! While a three year old may be mildly entertained by the walking (or rather, spookily gliding) dog, an eight year old would probably look at you as though you'd gone mad if you presented this to them. At five Hollie is probably around the right age for it, being young enough to overlook the general naffness of the toy and still having enough love for all things cute to fall in love with the puppy aspect of it.
Having just looked on Amazon I can tell you the Puppy Play Park is currently available for £12, and while this is probably a reasonable price considering you get the Barbie (which usually cost this by themselves) I don't actually think the toy is fit for purpose - mainly due to the poor quality, also because of the fact that the dog has such a short range and doesn't always work. The official RRP of £28 is nothing short of hysterically funny, if I'd paid that much I'd be tempted to go and riot inside Mattel HQ as that is an actual mickey-take of a price tag.
Not recommended, even to Barbie lovers. Oh, we lost the tiny pathetic accessories too - if I remember correctly there were two balls (rolled off into the ether one day), a small plastic tree (or maybe this came from another set) and a bone. I remember the bone because we thought Hollie's two year old brother had swallowed it, until it reappeared a week later inside my shoe - and then went straight into the bin as a possible choking hazard.
"Barbie knows puppies are cute, but they also require training. With this backyard set, Barbie doll can train and play with her two puppies outside. The motorised larger puppy has an innovative sound-recognition feature. Girls can press the lever on Barbie dolls back to move her arms in a clapping motion and activate the clapping mechanism inside or clap their own hands; when the large puppy hears Barbie doll clapping, it can come to her or go up or down the slide! The little puppy, also on wheels, is not electronic but can be connected to the bigger puppy. Once training is over, the two can play together on the slide for a nurturing moment. Both puppies feature bobble-heads and tails that really bring them to life. Includes Barbie doll with clapping feature, doghouse play set, a big motorised/sound-activated puppy, a little puppy, a ball and a bone. Ages 3 and older."